You drink the cool clean water
and smack your lips, refreshed.
Elsewhere, in this same country,
the water is not clean,
must be boiled, then drunk.
Elsewhere, you might be dying
to drink it as is,
and damned if you do.
Elsewhere, water means business.
It thickens wallets.
You will pay for it.
You could ask whose future is being spent
down to the last hovering drop.
You could ask about thirst—who thirsts
for a better life and who for just a life
to grow all the way up in.
But you don’t. You drain the glass
and turn on the tap for more.
There’s never not been more.
This poem, written 20 years ago and finally published in The American Journal of Poetry in 2019 (with deep thanks to editor Robert Nazarene) unfortunately addresses a continuing and current situation (I’m thinking of Texas). It was inspired by watching my thirsty ten year old son gulp down a glass of water and imagining this conversation. He must have heard me – he continues to ask all the right questions about this world that he and all our kids and grandkids will inherit.